These pulpit notes are provided unedited and will thus contain some grammatical or typographical errors.
Good morning everyone, thank you for joining us this morning. You can open your Bibles to John chapter 2.
Who did you invite to your wedding? How did you decide who to invite?
- Closest friends who just had to be there.
- Closest family who were essential to the day.
- Family members who you didn’t have much of a relationship with, but whom you want to be there for your big day.
- Good friends from the past from whom you’ve grown distant, who you’d like to see once again on your special day.
Then the nature of your list begins to change…
- Family members that you feel obligated to invite.
- First cousins, second cousins.
- Coworkers who may be work friends, but who you don’t really spend time with otherwise.
- That casual acquaintance who invited you to their wedding that you now feel obligated to invite.
- All the “plus ones” of the singles you’ve invited.
Now, although there were certainly many you invited to your wedding out of obligation, there were also those you invited because you sincerely wanted them to share the special day with you. There were those people that were special to you. You wanted them to share the big moments at the ceremony and to participate in the celebration at the reception. You wanted them to forever be included in your memories of your special day.
Some of you may have had elaborate ceremonies and receptions while others may have kept it simple, but one thing remains consistent – you wanted a special time of celebration shared with the people closest to you. You wanted your special day to be a day of abundant love, and joy. You wanted it to be a party fit to celebrate your new life.
The setting of our passage this morning is a wedding reception. A Jewish wedding reception.
Such weddings were a big deal. They were a serious celebration which would often last an entire week and include an open invitation to the entire town. These celebrations which feature food aplenty and free flowing wine.
Guests would come and go throughout the week, and the expectation was that the groom had made appropriate provision for the entire week so that each guest could have their fill of food and wine.
On the occasion in our passage however, disaster struck such a wedding. Let’s read it together.
John 2:1-11 ¶ On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.
Jesus and his disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana. Apparently, Jesus and his family knew the bride and groom. This is clear since Mary, the mother of Jesus, appears to be one of the wedding planners.
3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
Upon initial reading, we might not think much of this. After all, with a week-long celebration, surely the wine would run out at some point. But we have to understand the social context. For a groom to fail to make proper provision for his wedding and for the wine to run out while the celebration was still on-going was a social disaster. Such a faux pas would have brought shame upon the groom and his family. It struck right to the perception of the groom’s character and his ability to support his new bride.
Mary, who was apparently partly responsible for some of the wedding planning, upon seeing the potential disaster unfolding tells Jesus, “They have no wine.”
If the guests came seeking wine and were turned away, the celebration would be over and the bride and groom would be devastated.
Jesus has an interesting response to his mother:
4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
Jesus’ response to Mary is a big brusque, but not as disrespectful as we might think when we see his address “Woman.” He is not responding rudely, but his response is intended to communicate some distance between he and she. It is as if to say, “your concerns right now, are not my concerns.” He then says “My hour has not yet come.”
We don’t know exactly why Mary takes the problem to Jesus. Was she expecting a miracle? Probably not. This is the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry and he has not yet performed any miracles. Nevertheless, she alerts Jesus to the impending disaster and seeks his help in remedying it. She said to the servants:
5 …”Do whatever he tells you.”
John then describes the scene:
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
Mark tells us in his gospel:
Mark 7:3-4 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.)
So, at the wedding there were six stone water jars. They were stone because the stone was considered impervious to defilement. The Jews could wash their cups, and pots, or perhaps their hands in these jars without defiling them. It says that each jar held 20 or 30 gallons. That means there was the potential for 120-180 gallons of water.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.
Fill them up to the brim, so that it is impossible to add more.
8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.
John doesn’t make a big deal about what just happened, but what we are going to see is that in that moment, Jesus miraculously turned all 180 gallons of water into 180 gallons of wine.
9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom
The master of the feast, that is the chief party planner had no idea what had happened. He has no idea of the source of this wine but tastes it and is immediately impressed. So impressed he calls the groom to him…
10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
The master of the feast has been to his share of weddings. He knows how things normally operate. It’s just common sense that during a week-long celebration, you bring out the good stuff first. Why? Because perhaps a good number of guests will have their fill before the lower quality wine is used. Or, because after drinking much wine, the senses are dulled anyway and so the change in quality wouldn’t really matter.
We can gather from the master of the feast’s response that this is probably pretty well into the wedding celebration week. He commends the groom for still having a supply of good wine. Better than good wine. Wine which surpassed the wine which was brought out in the beginning.
With that, social disaster was averted. Jesus performed a miracle of mercy on behalf of this new bride and groom. Not only would they avoid the shame of disappointing their wedding guests, but would be commended.
Note that Jesus did this miracle behind the scenes so that his mother, and his disciples and the servants knew of it, but the master of the feast, the bride and groom and the other guests had no clue.
11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
That’s a pretty simple narrative, isn’t it? The first of Jesus’ miracles is the turning of water into wine. His disciples believe and we move on. Or do we?
We know that John the Apostle has written his gospel and specifically states that he has given the accounts of seven of Jesus’ miracles for a very deliberate purpose. Remember his purpose statement:
John 20:30-31 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Transition to Jesus’ Identity
In some way this miracle of water into wine testifies to Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, the Son of God. So, is there anything here other than a display of his mercy on a young couple, and his power over creation?
I think there is.
First of all, notice again Jesus’ response to his mother. When she tells him that the wine has run out, he says “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
Throughout the gospel of John, John relates phrases like “my hour has not yet come” or “my time has not yet fully come” or “his hour had not yet come” anticipating the hour of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is as if, at the moment that Jesus began his earthly ministry a counter begin ticking downward and John at various points in the account of Jesus’ life reminds of where we are on the lock. Until, Jesus himself says in John 12, speaking of his death:
John 12:23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
John 12:27 ¶ “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.
Notice there that Jesus refers to the hour of his death as the hour when he would “be glorified.” With that we understand that the clock is ticking not just towards his crucifixion but towards the result of his death, burial and resurrection, which would be his glorification. The hour when Jesus would defeat sin, death, and Satan and ascend his throne at the right hand of the Father was coming. But, it was not yet.
So, Jesus tells Mary, “My hour has not yet come.”
Here’s the question. Why does the request that Jesus do something about wine running out at a wedding cause Jesus to respond by talking about the coming day of his death and subsequent exaltation or glorification?
In Jewish thought, wine represented times of joy and celebration and abundance. An overflowing abundance of wine was a sign of blessing, peace and prosperity. In fact, as the Old Testament prophets foretold of the coming Messiah and his kingdom, that kingdom was described as featuring rich feasts and wine.
We find one such passage in the book of Isaiah. In Isaiah 24, the Lord through the prophet Isaiah tells of a time of great judgment upon the earth. He tells of a time when God will judge the rebels of the earth. In describing the destruction and desolation on earth at that time, Isaiah says:
Isaiah 24:6-11 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. 7 The wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh. 8 The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. 9 No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. 10 The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter. 11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished.
Isaiah represents the loss of peace, and joy and prosperity at that time how? He says “the wine mourns, the vine languishes” and “No more do they drink wine” and “there is an outcry… for the lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished.”
Isaiah goes on however to describe what will happen immediately after the judgment of those days. After God destroys his enemies, and judges the rebellious nations, he will establish his kingdom on earth. Now, look in Isaiah 25 to see how this kingdom is described:
Isaiah 25:6-9 ¶ On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 ¶ It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
- A feast for all people.
- Rich food
- Well-aged wine / well-refined wine
- “he will swallow up.. the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.” The curse (24:6).
- “He will swallow up death forever”
- “the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from faces”
- [he will] “take away the reproach of his people”
- He affirms the surety of these promises by stating “for the LORD has spoken”
Look at the response of the people in that day:
- “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
And with that, after judgment, God himself establishes a Kingdom. A kingdom where death is eradicated. A kingdom where God rules and reigns. A kingdom where God comforts the mourning, wiping away all tears. And how is this kingdom celebrated? With a rich feast. A feast for people from every corner of the globe. A feast with rich food. A feast will well-aged and well-refined wine.
Jewish Messianic Hope
So, the Jews, in looking forward to the day when God’s promised Messiah or Christ would appear, expected him to usher in just such a kingdom. A kingdom where death would be defeated, and tears would be wiped away. A kingdom where the curse is eradicated. A kingdom marked by joy, abundance and life. In their culture, such a kingdom was well represented by the idea of a celebratory feast with rich food and abundant wine.
Is this enough? Could the promise of a future Messianic kingdom with rich food and abundant wine be enough to cause Jesus, at the mention of the need for wine, to begin thinking about his coming death and resurrection and the day when he would usher in this kingdom as the Messiah?
Perhaps. Maybe however you’re thinking it’s quite a stretch to suggest that the account of the wedding at Cana is an allusion to Isaiah 25 and the promised coming kingdom. Just because wine is mentioned in both!?
No. Not just because wine is mentioned in both.
The Coming Wedding Feast in Revelation
The passage we read in Isaiah 25 foretelling the coming Messianic kingdom where death is defeated, the curse is eradicated and the world is marked by joy and abundance, is alluded to elsewhere in the New Testament. Specifically, it is alluded to in Revelation 21.
Now, Revelation 21 is the second last chapter of the Bible. The scene we are about to see is describing what it will be like when God establishes his eternal kingdom on earth.
Revelation 21:3-4 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
The final culmination of God’s redemptive plan is pictured here. As a consequence of Jesus’ perfect life and death for us on the cross, and his defeat of sin, death and Satan, he makes a people who can be described as belonging to God. God himself will be with them as their God. His dwelling will be in the midst of man. Now look at how this eternal state is described in verse 4:
4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
What did Isaiah 25 say in describing the coming Kingdom?
Isaiah 25:8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.
And just as Isaiah backs up the surety of these promises by stating “for the LORD has spoken” so the Lord, seated on his throne, as recorded in the book of Revelation says:
Revelation 21:5 “Behold, I am making all things new.” … “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
This scene is the book of Revelation is the description of the eternal Kingdom in which the Lord will reign over heaven and earth for all of eternity, after judging his enemies, just as Isaiah described.
So, here’s the question. Out of all the miracles that John could have chosen to feature in his gospel, he only chose 7, and chose them so that we would come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. How does miraculously producing an abundance of wine at a wedding testify that he is the Christ, the Son of God?
Well, look back at Revelation 21 and see a bit more about the setting of the eternal kingdom to come. Start in verse 1 of chapter 21:
Revelation 21:1-6 ¶ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.
And here we see a merger of sorts. We saw clearly that John in Revelation is alluding to Isaiah 25. Yet, in Isaiah 25 the festal celebration seems to be in regard to God establishing his kingdom. Yet, in Revelation we see that the establishment of that eternal kingdom is kicked off when the new Jerusalem appears “as a bride adorned for her husband.” Well that’s the wedding language.
But there’s more. If you go back a couple chapters you see the whole chain of events leading to this introduced this way:
Revelation 19:6-9 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”– for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
What do we learn then? We learn that the celebratory feast promised in Isaiah 25 with the rich food and well-aged wine is not just a celebration of God establishing his earthly kingdom, but it is also a wedding celebration!
John takes Isaiah’s description of a kingdom where death is defeated, the curse is rolled back, and tears are wiped away and unites that with the scene of the church, pictured as the bride of Christ, being presented to him, never again to be separated.
John continues in Revelation 19:
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
I think what’s happening here is that John, the author of both the Gospel of John and Revelation is showing us some interesting bookends. The earthly ministry of Jesus begins at a wedding and the final conclusion of his redemptive work ends with a wedding.
So, let’s go back to John 1 and the wedding at Cana.
As noted, the groom was responsible for providing enough wine for the week-long wedding celebration. In this case, the groom failed. Mary brings the problem to Jesus and he responds that his time has not yet come. What Mary didn’t know, and what Jesus did know, was that the day was coming when he would establish an eternal kingdom, inaugurated by a wedding ceremony where he, the perfect groom would provide abundant wine, for all people. But that time had not arrived.
Jesus however did respond to Mary’s request and worked a miracle. He turned 180 gallons of water into 180 gallons of wine. Six stone purification jars were filled to the brim with wine of the highest quality.
In a moment he took symbols of the emptiness of the Jewish rituals and signalled that he would replace them with joy, abundance and genuine celebration. The old was passing away and the new was arriving.
With that, Jesus gave a literal foretaste of the kingdom to come. The day would arrive where he would function as the bridegroom; when his bride, the church, would come to be his forever. At that time, he would fulfill the Old Testament promises of a lavish celebratory feast which marked the beginning of the eternal kingdom. All those in attendance would not only have their fill of rich food and excellent wine, but more importantly, they would overcome death, have their tears wiped away, and forever live in God’s presence, as his people.
With the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, this kingdom has begun to come to bear upon earth. From this point on, Jesus’ disciples would repeatedly receive glimpses of his glory as he brought aspects of that future kingdom forward into the present.
His earthly ministry would be marked by bringing joy to those mourn; healing to those who are sick; acceptance to those who were rejected; and even life to those who died. He would give samples of the abundant celebratory feast to come when he fed thousands miraculously, and when he turned water into wine. It was all foretastes and foreshadows of the kingdom to come. They were glimpses of his glory. Enough that those with ears to hear could believe in him.
CONCLUSION – APPLICATION
In Revelation, as the marriage supper is described, an angel proclaims:
Revelation 19:9 … “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
I began this message by asking “Who did you invite to your wedding?” I’m going to end it by asking “Are you going to be invited to THAT wedding?”
The angel says “blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Why? Because everyone who responds to that invitation and are present at that wedding celebration will be those:
- Who have overcome death through the death of Jesus.
- Who have had their tears wiped away by God himself.
- Who have been delivered from the curse of sin.
- Who have received full and final salvation, never to be separated from God again.
All those at that wedding are those who can say:
Isaiah 25:9 ¶ It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
So, how can you be assured you will be there? Well consider the response of Jesus’ disciples when they saw his miracle at the wedding in Cana:
John 2:11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
In seeing this miracle, the disciples of Jesus saw a glimpse of his glory. A small taste of the glory that would one day be revealed in its fulness. Upon seeing that glimpse, they believed. They believed that he was the promised the Messiah, the Son of God and that one could only be saved through him.
This morning, will you believe in Jesus? Will you believe that he is the Christ, the Son of God? Will you believe that he and he alone can save you from your sin? Give you victory over death, and grant you eternal life? If so, be baptized in his name, and live as his disciple.
This morning if you are already a believer. Take joy in knowing that the day is coming when he will usher you into his eternal kingdom. Though saved, you still suffer. You experience the affects of the sin curse. Whether it be through sickness, disease, violence, suffering or ultimately death. But the day is coming when the curse will be rolled back, death will be defeated, and you will spend eternity within Christ’s eternal kingdom; in the presence of God, forever.
As a believer, you have been invited to that Kingdom and you can be assured that Jesus, the bridegroom to the church, has prepared a place for you.